He was VP when I was born and one of my earliest political memories is of him being the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee. I remember hoping he would win, not because I had real political views at age 6, but because that is the age we are taught to take turns and I figured Reagan had his turn. He and Jimmy Carter held the record for longest surviving ticket post-presidency at 40 years and three months. He died today at age 93. His other offices included AG of MN (1960-1964), US Senator from MN (1964-1976), and US Ambassador to Japan (1993-1996). He was the replacement nominee for Paul Wellstone for US Senate in 2002.
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Maureen Dowd has a must read op-ed praising President Biden for his decision to end the war in Afghanistan. It’s worth reading. Hindsight is 20/20, and while I haven’t gotten to that part of his book yet, I’m sure President Obama regrets the 2009 surge. We avenged 9/11 nearly a decade ago when Osama bin Laden was eliminated alongside the bulk of the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership most responsible for the attacks.
In retrospect, we’ve lost nearly 200 times the number of 9/11 victims during the pandemic. We could potentially lose millions more if we continue to do nothing to stop climate change. I said a prayer of thanksgiving today, that the war will end and that none of my students going into the military will have to fight in a war that started before they were born.
Well, it’s come to this. I do apologize for my long absences this year. After 16+ years, I’m going to be either handing off the blog, or shutting it down. My grad program is taking up most of my time; I don’t have the time to put into making good content or good writing; and I’ve been moving into expending my civic energies in other ways. (I did get re-elected to Town Meeting, so more long evenings on Zoom for me. Woot!)
I want to thank absolutely everyone who showed up and has made this a really unique community for so many years, but especially the cadre of folks who have stuck around to this point. It’s been an honor to know you, and let’s get together in real life for beers … when we’re all vaccinated.
And I’ve been feeling a sense of finality — like I’ve said everything I know how to say, in as many ways as I know how to say it:
- Climate change is the end of the world; we should take that personally, and avoid it by all means.
- Save the MBTA. Expand public transit. Ride your bike.
- Let’s be better human beings, and end racism: Yes in policing and the justice system, but also in medicine, education, housing, environment …
- Never give up.
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, going back to a couple of years ago. I was ready to do it last year, but the Ed Markey primary kept me in. Now the prospect of paying for another year of hosting is forcing the issue a bit.
I’d like to hand off the blog to a group of people who are still interested in medium-long-form informal writing … you know, blogging. I’d love for that group of interested people (if such exist) to be diverse in age, race, background, geography, and class. If you know someone who might be interested, by all means send them my way.
Doing this site has gotten me access to really amazing events: State and national conventions, debates, TV and radio … it’s been crazy, especially a few years ago. But the fact is that there are many options for blogging, even now: Substack, Medium, social media, etc. I can imagine that someone getting into this would be just as happy to start their own site, rather than have to upgrade this one. Why renovate when you can build new?
And if there are no takers … well, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
With greatest affection for you all –
At America’s southern border there are thousands of refugees from societies that have collapsed into utter chaos. In America, we can see the same collapse occurring. Acts of violence, anger, lies, misrepresentation and plotting and plodding conspiracy are everywhere and in every form by every group. The lust for money, power, superiority, selfishness, self-righteousness, pride and fear are the ingredients of a toxic stew. We have become a nation divided. There is nothing about these gloomy words that are easily disputed, and if I were to extrapolate upon them it would be easy to list specifically how every sector of society has failed: churches, universities, local government, state government, federal government, political parties, the police, corporations, bankers, unions, individuals, sport teams, publishing, technology companies, newspaper, radio and television and the courts. We have finally arrived full-on at the difficult task of self-government, and its underlying irony: The wise don’t need laws, and the unwise won’t follow them.
When Adam Smith wrote his book The Wealth of Nations, the wealth enjoyed was the existence of a social contract. Similarly, Karl Marx wrote in favor of a social contract and the end of class conflict. Their politics and economic theories are more aligned than different: They both condemned cruelty and cronyism and the reckless pursuit of profit. The Constitution, opening with the words, We The People, establishes both the existence and the importance of the social contract. The Bible is replete with the tales of societies that both lost and rediscovered the social contract. When Athens gave birth to democracy, it was an attempt to renew the lost social contract.
We need to ask ourselves, who are we and how did we get here? If you take a look at the long arc of history, the answer may surprise you. There is nothing new about the challenges we face today, depressing as they may be. Technology has improved, populations have swelled, but the ability to make mistakes and amplify them to a point of crisis is common. Cheer up! If other societies can get their house in order, then so can we. However, chances are you will need to change your thinking about everything. Ironically, it is at the same point in time when people were willing to change their thinking about everything that we find one root of our current problem: the birth of modern finance began three hundred years ago.
The reforms authored by John Law in France in 1720 set the stage for the withering of monarchial-feudalism. It would still take two centuries before it reached Russia in the Bolshevik revolution. If you think the dividing line in modern times is between capitalism and socialism, then you are mistaken. Our economic system is best described as Feudalism 2.0. The new lords are the new billionaires. Corporations and patents and copyrights are the new landholdings and privileges. Government, as ever, is incapable of managing a system it fails to understand.
The problems of the modern world are the same problems as the ancient world. Money and power divides society. War follows trade routes, and economic survival is the basis of all tribalism. People self-segregate into divided communities and generate new narrow social contracts. The division of labor eventually becomes a division of understanding, and the banality of exploitation becomes the primary method of survival. Whether enforced by pen or sword, the imperfect status quo becomes of paramount importance. As the economic system churns cycles of volatility, fear increases, and the destructive behaviors required for survival spread. It becomes impossible to escape the consequences of our own actions, yet there is no way to stop, except collectively, which is impossible because the social contract is but a distant memory.
In the past, societies have begun anew with the forgiveness of debt. That is what Solon did in Athens, and Neminiah did in the Bible. As a practical matter, revolutions erase debts. When Cromwell revolted in England, he failed to forgive debts after his victory, and so the revolution eventually failed. The big problem is not political, it is economic. The daily economics of small transactions drives the politics. Profit introduces an imbalance, and time allows it to compound. Those with any advantage fear losing it, and so every proposal involves shifting a burden rather than an actual solution. America has had one civil war, but has never forgiven debts. This may be a testament to the strength of democracy, but it is more likely because of the wealth of the land taken from Native Americans. Theft acts as a grease softening internal tribal conflict. Many ancient societies thrived through plunder. We have also established a new realm of possession: intellectual property. As absurd as it is to claim ownership of an idea, no past societies could generate wealth in such a way. It created an entire new battlefield for conflict. When one considers the arrival of the printing press, widespread literacy, and industrial and technical advances, the last three hundred years of modern finance are unique and amazing, yet we are burdened by our choices. The accounting is insane. Paper money has made both debt and inflation infinite, and double-entry bookkeeping, discovered in the 16th century, keeps track of our madness. While the mad frenzy for colored dirt like gold and jewels which was a hallmark of monarchy and feudalism has been reduced, the hunger has been replaced with extractive industries to fuel modern technologies.
While men think deeply and grapple with large abstract questions, the thing that always concerns them first is their own physical comfort. All systems of invention service this need, including the division of labor. We cannot allow a division of understanding, and a division of reward, to continue to justify the destruction of the social contract. Many hands make light work. If life is hard for some, then we have failed somewhere. We cannot afford to ignore the problems that are festering. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and any and all suffering is a sign of where something is wrong. People suffer as a result of their own choices as well as outside agents. We need to begin the process of healing, separating the wheat from the chaff, and putting this ugly period of partisan politics and economic volatility and conflict and crime in the trashcan of history. What has happened in America’s client states is now happening here. We need to escape from feudalism once and for all. If people are willing to let go of the past, then a much better world is possible.
First, I apologize to my BMG community friends for being AWOL as I’ve been immersed in my local Wakefield April 27 town election, consulting/volunteering/organizing for our progressive slate of four candidates for Council/School Committee and a ballot question. This following essay by John Pavlovitz best sums up where my head, heart and soul is at these days.
I am a collector of stories.
I watch people, I listen closely to them, I eavesdrop on their conversations in person and on social media, and I look for patterns to try and understand what’s happening to us as a nation.
I’ve tried to put my finger on how I’m feeling lately, how I think so many of us are feeling out there.
It isn’t outrage. We’ve been there for a while now if we’ve been paying attention at all. It isn’t anger. That’s familiar territory for people whose eyes have been open to the ugliness. It isn’t grief. We have collectively and individually mourned for years at this point. It’s something else. I think it’s exhaustion.
I sense a corporate emotional weariness in kind people these days, the accumulated scar tissue created when you’ve absorbed more bad news, predatory behavior, and attacks on decency than your reserves can manage. Sustained cruelty will do that to the human soul.
There’s only so much contempt for humanity our minds are able to process, until one day something snaps and we lose the ability to respond with the same urgency and resilience we once had. A low-grade hopelessness sets in, slowly replacing our activism with apathy and one day rendering us immobile : cruelty sickness.
Prolonged exposure to this kind of seemingly tireless barbarism begins to rob us of energy, to dishearten us to the point that we stop caring and opt out. This is of course, by design. That is what those manufacturing this incessant enmity are counting on.
The fatigue of decent humans is the plan: inundate us with a million tiny crises, assail us with countless daily culture war battles, and batter us with endless legislative assaults — until we are gradually but decidedly crushed beneath the weight of it all. Eventually, we succumb to the numerous wounds of their boundless hatred, the suffering of those they victimize, and a steady stream of the unanswerable questions about how and why human beings can be this perpetually cruel.
Maybe it’s a bit of necessary resting after the last four ferocious years, perhaps an understandable emotional letdown afforded by the arrival of an adult human president and the feeling that we are not in a continual state of imminent threat from our government, or maybe it’s the welcome distraction of passing through the worst of a brutal year in isolation — but it feels as though our collective passions are waning and we cannot afford this.
So what do we do? What do kind people who are sickened by cruelty do to get well? We tether ourselves to one another.
Now, more than ever, good and tired people need to cultivate community, to stay connected to our tribes of affinity, and to carry one another through the fatigue when it comes. We fill in the gaps among us and we let those of us who feel strong enough today to engage the fight for those who need to catch their breathe and renew their strength. We surround ourselves with people who value us not only for the work we do and the causes we support but for the inherently vulnerable beings with finite resources that we are; those that demand that we rest and encourage us to play and give us space to pause — so that we are not consumed by the brutality of the day.
Community is an elixir for the soul and we need such good togetherness medicine more than ever because we are exposed to more toxic trauma than we’ve ever been, and because the war against disparate humanity isn’t going anywhere.
Injustice, inequity, discrimination and suffering are hazardous to the hearts of good people and they should be. They will make us rightly sick and so we have to keep one another well.
Stay together, stay alive, and stay kind, friends.
- More than 57,000 kids applied to Harvard this year, competing for one of the 1,600 available seats for the Class of 2025. The application fee is $75. Over four million dollars was spent on this and one can only guess how many labor hours in applying, evaluating, and processing the results. I’d like to know why Harvard and other schools like Harvard can’t increase their enrollment…and what does all of this tell us about “higher education”?
- Mitch McConnell wants corporations to get their noses out of politics. Really, he said that.
- Is there any way possible to get Al Franken back into the Senate? Really, we screwed up on that one.
- The more I see this new generation of Democrats: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Porter, Jen Psaki, the more optimistic I get for the party and our nation.
- The more I see this new generation of Republicans: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Kayleigh McEnany, the more pessimistic I get for the Republican Party and my fears grow that they may regain power.
- The previous two statements illustrate a valid point: We need more than “More Women in Government”.
- On a personal note, I retired last October and moved from Metro West to the Cape in December. I’ve not spent much time on the Cape since moving to Massachusetts twenty years ago. It’s pretty quiet out here, but they tell me that’s about to change.
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